I would argue that the pacing was far too slow. The combat took way too long to get going and even when it "got going" it's still the most barebones of all 3D Tales games. It is the foundation of the modern Tales combat and it deserves praise for that, but it's the worst gameplay-wise. While I played Symphonia on Gamecube when it came out, I didn't play through it entirely until after I beat all of the PS3 Tales and played the PS2/P games. It felt lacking, slow, and very easy.
I didn't really love any of the cast, so that hurts attachment to the plot, etc. As for the graphics, the color palette is nice but those character models are horrible. Hardly acceptable on the Gamecube then, much less now. I don't know if I ever thought about its graphics as a positive.
And while you can criticize the newer games for having barren worlds, but it's not like Symphonia had much going on. Zesty/Berseria's are due to the design decision to have seamingless navigation/battle transitions, which I think are unnecessarily and the game would benefit from more detailed and intentional level design. While I wish they would have improved on Vesperia by continuing in that style, but they choose to save money after their first 7th gen Tales of games flopped hard. I don't understand your complaint about Xillia being slow if Symphonia is well paced considering Xillia is faster paced not only in story but also in combat. Each of these games have expanded on the foundation that was set with Symphonia and Abyss. I don't understand the comment about being content with little considering those games have so much more depth and mechanics than Symphonia. I understand there is something great in simplicity often but I think that is true in some of the 2D Tales, not 3D.
You do realise you aren't talking about pace there? Pace as in how long it takes you to go from A to B, to discover a new location, a new piece of story, a new character. How long battles last, how long dungeons last. Also, the combat took long to get going? I don't get that. The combat is basic attacks, artes, arcane artes, mystic artes. It's the same on every Tales of game. You think characters didn't look good, i wonder how? They were super cute. Is it the chibi style you don't like? I really don't get it. Barren fields. No symphonia doesn't have barren fields. Why don't you go compare how many towns and dungeons the games before Graces had and the ones after. Theres a bigger sense of world, of urgency and of scale. That is all lost especially on Xillia onwards. As for difficuty, what is this about? wasnt there a difficulty option? The game was acessable. Beeing easy as you say, meant there was no need to grind and therefore it improved the pacing. But, it wasn't so easy you facerolled every boss. Like, i don't get how you can not see these things, but we are all entitled to our opinions. I think you just went in not wanting to enjoy it for some reason. Either that, or like the other poster you judge the game by it's post main story content. If that is the case, very well. I don't very much care to level to 99 and all that. I care about those main 40 hours of gameplay and storytelling.
I think we're just opposed on this end, so I'll just clarify some things and leave it there. By pace, I not only meant the pace of the story, but also the pace at which they introduce more mechanics into the combat. Tales of games rightfully gate off things to ease you into their gameplay systems. Degree of difficulty was fairly low in Symphonia due to the limited number of mappable artes especially when compared to Graces, Vesperia, and Berseria which have 16+. That's purely depth of combat.
For characters, they were this weird in between of chibi and normal human that just kinda felt weird. Like they got told to hurry it up and save budget and put in a mix of more cartoon-ish/detailed models. When I say "barren fields", I'm strictly talking about the overworlds as the actual dungeons of the older Tales games are far superior.
While you can change the difficulty, I always just play on Normal or Moderate. I have no desire to push end-game content or level up to 99. I facerolled through the vast majority of the game, but tbh, lots of them are pretty easy. Last Tales of that I had trouble with was some of the bosses in Xillia 2 and Vesperia.